Are you into cool old electronics? Do you collect vintage radios? Vintage Zenith radios fit a trendy aesthetic while also being a collector’s item. Your grandma probably had one laying around. Let’s look at some history and why vintage Zenith radios are a good buy for collectors and those chasing nostalgia.
Founded in Chicago by Ralph Matthews and Karl Hassel in 1918, the company was originally called Chicago Radio Labs. They produced amateur radio equipment, and did not become a household name at first. The name was changed to ‘Zenith,’ which was after the ham radio signal contraction of 9ZN, which was ZN’th.
Chicago Radio Labs became Zenith Radio Company in 1923. They were first known for their radios, of course. In the 1930’s, they started to make car radios, too. Zenith was the first company to produce portable radios in 1914, and in 1927 they released the first radio with push-button tuning. Zenith has been known as an innovator since the doors opened.
The company was known for high-end radios, but they changed their focus to more affordable options as the Depression hit. Zenith has an array of vintage radios to choose from.
Types of Vintage Zenith Radios
When looking at Zenith radios, it’s not just a one and done situation. There are so many to choose from, so you should do your research. When you imagine a Vintage Zenith radio, we all probably see something different. One of those models is the Zenith Z-1000 Stratosphere, which sold for more than a car at the time it was released in the 1930’s. The radio looks more like a piece of furniture than an electronic.
Zenith also put themselves on the map with the Trans-Oceanic, or T/O radio. They were heavy duty and high quality. This radio was also a shortwave receiver. They come in black and would be a very cool addition to any collection.
Another interesting radio is the Zenith K-515 Owl Eyes Tube Radio, which was nicknamed “Owl.” This is a smaller portable radio, and it does in fact look like an owl. It has two large white circular rings on the outer edges, and a brown exterior. It’s totally an owl.
The Zenith Beehive radio is one more very cool looking vintage Zenith Radio. This one has a dark brown finish, and teal tuning panel. This would look amazing on a dresser or table to complete an Art Deco room.
Depending on what style you are going for, there are plenty to choose from with vintage Zenith radios.
How Much Will a Vintage Zenith Radio Cost?
These radios are very popular collector’s items. In fact, right now, some of the Stratosphere models are selling for upwards of $7000 on eBay. Don’t worry, if that’s not in the budget, some of the smaller portable models are going for around $60. As they get bought up, prices will rise and they will be even more difficult to purchase.
Of course, when doing your research, make sure you are getting quality and not a rip off. Some listings will sell the cabinet ONLY, and no radio. Make sure you look at the fine print! If you are looking for one that still works, it will most likely cost you at least a couple hundred dollars. There are smaller transistor radios for around $30, but if you are looking for a real collector’s item, plan to spend quite a bit of cash.
Where Can I Buy?
You may be the type who likes to rummage through thrift stores and estate sales looking for rare finds, and that’s great! It takes a lot of work, and part of the fun is the hunt. However, if you want to find a specific vintage Zenith radio, the internet is going to be the way to go.
eBay is the best place to look for these things. They may be pricy, but you are getting what you pay for. Sellers are putting up high quality items that are in pristine condition. If they aren’t, the listing will say so. You might be the tinkering type, and want to find a few broken radios being sold for parts to put back together. Whatever you’re looking for, the internet has got it.